Health News
Health News
March 19, 2021
Health Screenings: Keys to Staying Healthy

At Privia Medical Group North Texas (PMGNTX), it is our mission to prioritize our patients’ wellness. We treat you and make you better when you are sick, but we want to focus just as much on keeping you healthy, so you’re less likely to get sick in the first place. 

A vital component to this model is making sure patients receive needed health screenings in a timely manner.  We all need to be screened periodically to help us detect early signs of disease. 

Unfortunately, national data show many have fallen behind on these recommended health screenings due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  Some people may have thought it better to avoid the doctor’s office altogether in an effort to protect themselves from catching COVID-19. 

In fact, no one should skip a needed health screening because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  PMGNTX providers are taking every precaution to ensure offices are safe for patients to come in for appointments.  Minimizing the number of people in the waiting area, proper social distancing, required use of face coverings and other protocols are in place to keep our patients and employees safe. 

Below are some of the most important health screenings everyone should be aware of. 

Important Note: Every person is unique and some people may need screenings more often or may need to begin them sooner than these guidelines state.  These are simply general guidelines; your medical history, your family health history and other factors may lead your physician to recommend a different approach. 

Cholesterol Screening

Who Needs It & When?

  • Children between the ages of 9-11.
  • Young adults between the ages of 17-21.
  • Adults every 4-6 years, if no history of heart disease.
  • Adults with a history of heart disease should visit with their physician about how often to be screened.

What Is It? 

  • A simple blood test.

Why Is It Important?

  • “High cholesterol is one of the most common risk factors for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. If your cholesterol is too high, we can work to lower it through diet and exercise changes and possibly a prescription medication.” - Melissa McFadden, Primary Care.

Guideline Source: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Blood Pressure Screening

Who Needs It & When? 

  • Men and women, age 18-39 with normal blood pressure: every three to five years.
  • Men and women, age 40 and older and adults under 40 with elevated blood pressure: every year.

What Is It?

  • A simple, quick screening using a cuff around the arm.

Why Is It Important?      

  • “High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is another key risk factor for heart disease. Hypertension is called the ‘silent killer’ because it has no symptoms, even as it damages arteries and creates additional strain on the heart.  High blood pressure also increases the risk of diabetes. If blood pressure is elevated, we will work with our patients to get it under control.” - Naseem Sunnoqrot, Nephrology

Guideline Source: U.S. Preventative Services Taskforce

Diabetes Screening

Who Needs It & When?               

  • Men and women age 45 and older, every three years.
  • Men and women ages 19-44, if overweight or obese.
  • Women who have had gestational diabetes.
  • Children between ages of 10-18 who are overweight and have at least two other risk factors.

What Is It?        

  • A simple blood test to check blood sugar levels, often done in conjunction with a cholesterol screening.

Why Is It Important?      

  • Diabetes is a metabolic disorder resulting from the body not using food properly. Diabetes may cause a number of serious health problems, including heart disease, vision loss, kidney disease and nerve damage.  Through regular screenings, physicians can often catch the onset of diabetes and get blood sugar back to within a normal range.

Guideline Source: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Breast Cancer Screening

Who Needs It & When?               

  • Women ages 25-39 should have a clinical breast exam every 1-3 years.
  • Women age 40 and older should have a clinical breast exam every year.
  • Women ages 40-49 who have a normal risk of breast cancer should consider having a mammogram every year or every other year.
  • All women age 50 and older should have a mammogram every year or two years.

What Is It?

  • A clinical breast exam is conducted by your physician during a check-up. The doctor examines the breasts for changes in size, shape and appearance.
  • A mammogram is an x-ray image of the breast. The radiologist uses the image to identify any abnormalities that may be of concern.

Why Is It Important?

  • “Clinical breast exams and mammograms are the keys to early detection of breast cancer. We have made tremendous strides in helping women beat breast cancer, and early detection leads to more effective treatment. Breast cancer screenings save lives.” - Anita Chow and Dr. Joseph Heyne, Breast Surgical Oncologists

Guideline Source: The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Cervical Cancer Screening (Pap Test & Pelvic Exam)

Who Needs It & When? 

  • Women ages 21-29 should have a Pap test every three years.
  • Women age 30-65 should have a Pap test and human papillomavirus (HPV) test every five years.

What Is It?        

  • Generally provided as part of a well-woman exam, the doctor conducts a visual internal and external examination of the pelvic area. The Pap test is done by taking a sample of cells from the cervix.  The entire exam only takes a few minutes. 

Why Is It Important?      

  • The Pap test is used to detect cervical cancer, as well as cellular changes that may eventually lead to cancer. By detecting these changes early, physicians can treat or even prevent cancer from occurring in the first place

Guideline Source: The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Colorectal Cancer Screening (Colonoscopy)

Who Needs It & When?

  • Colon screening should now start at age 45
  • If there are no abnormal results, repeat test once every ten years.

What Is It?        

  • When having a colonoscopy, the patient is sedated for maximum comfort. They physician then passes the colonoscope – a thin, flexible tube with a high definition camera attached – into the colon to examine all surfaces. During the procedure, precancerous polyps can be removed, thus preventing colorectal cancer. The exam typically lasts about 30 minutes. The day prior to the exam, the patient drinks a clear liquid diet and special bowel preparation to cleanse the colon so that an accurate exam can be obtained.
  • A stool test can also be used for screening, but it is less accurate than a colonoscopy, and of course cannot remove polyps. However, the best test is the one that does get done.

Why Is It Important? 

  • “If caught early enough, colon and rectal cancer is usually curable- colonoscopies are the key to that early detection. The colonoscopy also allows us to spot precancerous polyps and remove them during the screening, before they ever become cancerous.” – Glen Hooker, Colon & Rectal Surgery

Guideline Source: The American Cancer Society

Hepatitis C Screening

Who Needs It & When?

  • All adults age 18 and older, once in a lifetime.
  • All pregnant women, during each pregnancy.

What Is It?

  • A blood test.

Why Is It Important?      

  • Unlike Hepatitis A and B, there is no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C. While Hepatitis C often produces no symptoms, it can eventually cause serious liver damage.  If detected, Hepatitis C can be treated with medication.

Guideline Source: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Other Screenings

There are other health screenings that may be appropriate for you, depending on your age and medical history.  Some screenings that you may consider discussing with your physician include:

  • Glaucoma screening: Glaucoma is a serious eye disease and if untreated, can lead to vision loss. People over the age of 40 should discuss the merits of this screening with their physician. 
  • PSA test: There is some debate whether men over age 50 should have their PSA levels checked as a means of detecting prostate cancer. You should discuss the pros and cons of this test with your physician.
  • Osteoporosis screening: Older women and men with certain risk factors may be candidates for osteoporosis screenings.
  • Lung cancer screening: People with a history of heavy smoking and who still smoke or have quit in the last 15 years may consider a lung cancer screening. Again, this is something to discuss with your physician. 

“Regular health screenings are windows that allow your doctor to see what is going on inside your body,” says Dr. Joy Touchstone, an internal medicine physician and pediatrician.  “Every person is different, and your physician will give you the best advice based on your medical history and any other factors.  If you have questions about any of these screenings, be sure to discuss them with your provider.”